A guide to German pronunciation

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German (general) By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: German » German (general)
Last updated: 07/08/2009
Tags: advice (general), german

What I really like about German is the fact that it is a phonetic language i.e. you pronounce the words as they're spelt and there aren't any letters or syllables that are silent (like French!). There are a few guidelines that you have to follow, however. For example:

 

  • 'ie' is pronounced like 'ee'

  • 'ei' is pronounced like 'i'

  • 'z' is pronounced like 'ts'

  • 'w' is pronounced like 'v'

  • 's' at the beginning of a word is pronounced like 'z'

  • 'v' is pronounced like 'f'

  • 'ch' is often pronounced like the 'ch' in the Scottish word 'loch'

  • 'eu' is pronounced like 'oy'

  • 'au' is pronounced like 'ow' (as in 'Ow! That hurts.')

     

Let me give you some examples.

 

  • 'Wie...?' (how) is pronounced like 'vee'

  • 'drei' (three) is pronounced like 'dri' or 'dry'

  • 'zwei' (two) is pronounced like 'tsvi'

  • 'sieben' (seven) is pronounced like 'zeeben'

  • 'vergessen' (forgotten) is pronounced like 'fergessen'

  • 'neun' (nine) is pronounced like 'noyn'

  • 'Haus' (house) is pronounced just like 'house'

  • 'Maus' (mouse) is pronounced just like 'mouse'

 

Another thing that will help with the pronunciation of German (and French) words is opening your mouth more than you do in English. When we speak English, we don't usually need to move our mouths very much – our pronunciation is quite lazy – but if you want to pronounce German words properly, you will have to use your mouth more and open it wider than you're used to in English. The letter 'o', for example, in English has quite a round sound. The sound in German is a longer sound and that means we have to become less lazy in our pronunciation. If students are having a little difficulty pronouncing a word, I find that doing some mouth 'aerobics' with them – getting them to move their mouths in all directions – often solves the problem. This can be a fun thing to do and students are often surprised to find that just opening their mouths a little more is all it takes to produce a nice, authentic sound! 

Enjoy coming across new combination of sounds when you learn a foreign language. A word may sound strange to our ears and cause us to laugh, but so much the better! That intrigues us and challenges us and expands our 'sound' memory. All languages have their own rhythm and music and it is a fascinating part of language learning to come across these new rhythms and sounds.


Isabella Nicholls German (general) Tutor (Guildford)

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